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Celebrity Hi-Fi Systems: Frank Sinatra, Haruki Murakami, Magic Johnson, and more…

Written By: 
Tana Yonas
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Celebrity sound systems featuring Garrard, Tannoy, McIntosh, Thorens, and custom hi-fi equipment.

News alert: Celebrities are very much human like the rest of us, despite that popular culture exalts them to God-like levels. And as humans, famous people have a multitude of curiosities and hobbies that scratch that same itch we’re all after. Since money is often no object, those whose passion is music proudly display hi-fi set-ups that transform the ritual of deep listening into something sublime. 

Below are some accomplished writers, sports stars and actors with enviable systems. That’s followed by a rundown of musicians and their gear; it should come as no surprise that humans who center their lives around music want to capture perfect sound.

Sinatra's home hi-fi: Presto Reel to Reel, etc.* | Steve Hoffman Music  Forums

Frank Sinatra (1965)

Frank Sinatra sits in his Palm Springs home in front of his custom combination speaker and audio cabinet that includes a McIntosh C-22, Fisher R-200 tube tuner, and possibly Altec-Lansing, JBL, or some other classic hi-fi speakers. You can rent his Twin Palms home in Palm Springs these days for around $2,500 a night, and when you do you’ll find his upgraded system. One of the most unique components was the original Rek-O-Kut recording device which had microphone inputs that could transfer mono records onto an acetate disc. Read more about Frank’s system here.

Murakami y su insólito antídoto contra el estrés pandémico – El Agora

Haruki Murakami (2015)

Writer Haruki Murakami relaxes in his Tokyo home in this photo, surrounded by more than 10,000 jazz and classical LPs. The writer of The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, Kafka on the Shore and Underground is known to listen to music through his pair of Tannoy Berkeley coaxials, Thorens TD520, and Accuphase E-407 amplifier while he pens a multitude of dream worlds. See more detailed shots and description of his setup here.

Magic Johnson (1980s)

The hall of fame NBA player, entrepreneur and former president of basketball operations of the Los Angeles Lakers has been a media darling throughout his career. What many don’t know was that when he wasn’t on the court, Magic was a college radio DJ at Michigan State. His favorite song to play was “Distant Lover” by Marvin Gaye (Marvin’s system is covered below). Behind Johnson is his McIntosh MC2205 power amplifier, McIntosh C34V preamp, Nakamichi cassette player (perhaps the RX505?), DBX system deck and reel-to-reel.

Steve Jobs (1982)

This famous picture of genius Apple founder Steve Jobs shows his sparse apartment, where  everything had a purpose. A Tiffany lamp lights the room and in the background you can see Job’s Acoustat Monitor 3 speakers, Threshold FET-One preamp, STASIS-1 amplifier, Denon TU-750s digital tuner, and MK1 GyroDec turntable.

Andy Warhol (1975)

We’ve highlighted Andy Warhol on ISC before for his experimental film with his collaborators in the Velvet Underground and Nico. For a time, the charismatic multi-disciplinary artist was even a spokesman for Pioneer. This is one of the ads he did for the company.

Lata Mangeshkar (1963)

Lata Mangeshkar was one of the most popular Bollywood playback singers in India, and her sister is the much celebrated and prolific playback singer Asha Bhosle. Here Mangeshkar  relaxes with her records at home — in front of her German Saba speaker and record player combo.

Sly Stone (1971)

This photo of frontman Sly Stone of Sly and the Family Stone captures his impeccable style and taste. Here he sits in his bedroom next to his Teac A334OS reel to reel along with a hi-fi speaker, turntable, receiver set that’s a bit hard to recognize from this photo, but we’re quite certain sounds great!

Jimi Hendrix (1968)

Jimi Hendrix’s London Flat is still preserved to this day for lucky visitors, and his Beogram 1000 record player and vinyl collection is a coveted look into what his life may have sounded like. Here he is in his New York home playing on a classic Garrard 401 with roller drive.

Marvin Gaye listening to record. McIntosh and Thorens... | Marvin gaye,  Marvin, Vintage black glamour

Marvyn Gaye (1969)

You can tell by the look on Marvin Gaye’s face that he loved whatever song he was absorbed in. That beautiful set up behind him is the McIntosh MC2505 amp, the McIntosh c26 preamp, Teac reel to reel, and a Thorens TD-125 MK II.

TBT: Elton John's Epic Chill Session | GQ

Elton John (1976)

Singer and masterful pianist Elton John loved collecting Japanese hi-fi components. Here he lounges comfortably in gloriously flamboyant threads next to his Sony TA-1150 amplifier, Sony ST-5150 tuner, Sony PS-2310 vinyl player and AKAI ASE-20 full-size headphones.

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